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Pro-impeachment rally set for Redwood City

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A planned rally near Sequoia Station in Redwood City on Tuesday will supports the impeachment and removal of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The “Impeach & Remove Trump Demonstration,” scheduled for 5:30 p.m. outside the shopping center at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real, is one of many being held across the nation in advance of the full U.S. House of Representatives vote on whether to impeach the president, which could happen as soon as Wednesday, according to reports.

“We are rallying to show our support for Congress to impeach and remove Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” according to the event posting on Indybay.org. “We will meet at the corner near Old Navy – there is plenty of space to stand and walk around. You can take CalTrain to Redwood City and walk southwest across the parking lot to the corner of El Camino Real.”

Rally organizers are calling for nonviolent, peaceful protest.

“We expect all participants to act lawfully at all times and to seek to de-escalate any potential confrontation with those who disagree with our values,” they said.

Democrats have accused President Trump of impeachable abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, charging that he pressured Urkaine to investigate his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter, while withholding Congressionally approved military aid to that nation. The president, supported by fellow Republicans, insists he’s done nothing wrong and calls impeachment efforts by Democrats a partisan witch hunt. More on this story in the Associated Press.

Photo: President Donald Trump/Credit: White House

Hit and run arrest follows parking dispute in San Carlos

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A man was arrested on felony hit and run and assault with a deadly weapon charges after he allegedly struck a woman with his car at a slow speed during a parking dispute in San Carlos on Wednesday, then left the scene. But the man, identified as Douglas Caraway, 70, of San Carlos, didn’t go into hiding. Before leaving the scene, he told the assault victim his name, date of birth, and exactly where police could find him, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The victim, a woman in her 50s, complained of pain in her left leg but declined medical attention following the incident that occurred at about 6:30 p.m. in the 500 block of El Camino Real.

An investigation, according to the sheriff’s office, showed the woman was attempting to back into a parking space on southbound El Camino Real when Douglas Caraway, 70, of San Carlos, “partially maneuvered his vehicle into the parking space behind the victim’s vehicle.”

The woman exited her car, confronted Caraway and they argued.

“Caraway responded by putting his vehicle into gear, and at a very slow speed, he drove his vehicle forward and struck the victim on the side of her left leg,” the sheriff’s office said. “Caraway then stopped his vehicle and the verbal argument continued.”

The woman backed a few steps and Caraway once again drove forward and made contact with her left leg, according to the sheriff’s office. He then parked on the west curb of El Camino Real and, during the confrontation, provided his full name, date of birth and told her that if she called the police, they could contact him at the King Chuan Chinese Restaurant at 1188 San Carlos Ave.

That’s where deputies would find him. Caraway was arrested and booked in his San Mateo County jail. His vehicle was towed.

Anyone who might have information regarding this crime is encouraged to call the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at 1-800-547-2700.

Newly appointed Mayor Diane Howard calls for civil debate

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Although largely ceremonial, the position of Redwood City’s mayor, assumed annually by one of the city’s elected councilmembers, must, in addition to presiding over council meetings and cutting ribbon at events, “help set the tone for civil dialogue in our community,” according to Councilmember Ian Bain, who held the position this past year.

At the annual City Council transition ceremony Dec. 9, outgoing Mayor Bain was touted by council colleagues and residents for accomplishing that feat at a time of increasingly divisive national and local dialogue, particularly on social media. First appointed to council in 1998 and elected four times since, Bain, who remains councilmember until he terms out in November 2020, was described as demonstrating kindness, compassion and attentiveness as mayor.

“Every single day, (councilmembers) must get 100 emails, and I’m sure the mayor gets five times that, and he answers every one of them,” Councilmember Janet Borgens said.

Bain passed the torch to Mayor Diane Howard, whose first speech in her current term not only reiterated, but hammered home, a need to model civility.

“Tolerance is under attack in our country,” Howard said. “We are living in a time where bitter partisanship poisons our political discourse and we are salted with rancor from all sides and at every level.”

Having spent over half of the 37 years she’s lived in Redwood City on the council (her last term as mayor was almost 20 years ago), Howard focused her remarks “on how we talk to each other, how we listen to each other, and that now more than ever, we need to embrace divergent opinions.”

When leadership “fails to demonstrate a moral center,” Howard said, there’s a subsequent deterioration of interpersonal relationships and community connections. “Whether it be about politics, religion, ethnicity or sexual persuasion, civility has all been forgotten,” she said. “Social media platforms are littered with intolerant remarks by those emboldened by a lack of response from those who know better but remain silent.”

It doesn’t have to be that way, Howard suggested. She recalled a recent positive dialogue occurring at a council hearing filled with differing opinions on solutions to soaring rents. “Mayor Bain was clear, everyone would be heard, and that civility and respect would be expected by all,” Howard said. “I felt this was one of our best moments as a council and as a community.”

Howard vowed that the council and city “will not be drawn down that destructive path.”

The path to the mayor’s role changed this year. In September, the council voted to move to a seniority-based rotation system for appointing the mayor and vice mayor, where previously the council voted on who to select. 

Shelly Masur, who was appointed vice mayor, congratulated Howard and echoed the praise for Bain’s mayoral temperament.

Bain expressed gratitude for the support. While the mayor’s duties include presiding over council meetings, helping to set agendas and representing the council at events, setting the tone for civility remains one of its more important tasks, Bain said.

“Now that is not entirely up to the mayor, of course, but the mayor plays a big role in that, and I’m very thankful to have had that honor,” he said.

Woman fatally struck by SamTrans bus in downtown Redwood City

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SamTrans releases study for possibly six new express bus routes

A 70-year-old woman was fatally struck by a SamTrans bus near Sequoia Station in Redwood City today, the transit agency announced

The woman was struck about 8:45 a.m. at James Avenue and El Camino Real, an witnesses say she appeared to have been in the crosswalk, a SamTrans spokesperson said. No injuries were reported to occupants of the bus that included four passengers.

The incident was being investigated by the Sam Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Transit Police Bureau. Further details were immediately available.

Belmont police seek public’s assistance after man attempts to get teens in car

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Redwood City domestic violence suspect dies after struggle with police

Belmont police are seeking the public’s help in locating a man who demanded that two teenage girls get in his car Tuesday afternoon.

At about 4 p.m. on Casa Bona Avenue, the man drove up to the girls in a black 4-door SUV with tinted black windows, rolled down the passenger window and called out to them, “get in.” The girls immediately ran onto Semira Avenue and the driver continued southbound on Casa Bona Avenue, police said. The girls were not harmed, police said.

Police are now looking for the suspect and the vehicle he was driving. The girls said the SUV had a distinctive steering wheel cover “with characters from the film ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ on it.”

The driver was described by the girls as a white male in his 60s to 70s with short blonde hair, wearing a yellow and green plaid shirt.

Anyone with information, or those with home security video from the area, is asked to contact Belmont Police at (650) 595-7400 or police@belmont.gov.

Woodside High School’s Connor Herson rocks the mountain-climbing world 

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Connor Herson is a 16-year-old sophomore at Woodside High School, a cross-country runner, and he likes math. Pretty normal stuff for a guy his age. A typical teenager. But, what separates Connor from the rest of the high school herd is his penchant for rocks — big rocks — like free climbing the 3,000-foot granite face of El Capitan in Yosemite. 

His family is not an everyday “Hey, who wants to go to the beach?” kind of family. Rather the four-member Emerald Hills household is the “Hey, who wants to go climb the face of Half Dome?” variety. Connor’s father, Jim Herson, and mother Anne Smith, who met while on a bike tour, are both veteran rock climbers. Connor and his older sister, Kara, 20, a junior majoring in engineering physics at Stanford University, learned to climb before they could walk. From the get-go, a family on the way up. 

“I’ve been climbing most of my life,” says Connor. “My parents didn’t push me into it. When we would go to a climbing area I could entertain myself or climb. I chose to climb.” 

When the members of this athletic family are not outdoors scaling granite monoliths all over the country, they work out at Planet Granite and at Touchstone Climbing Gyms. The artificial walls of the gyms vary in difficulty and can test even the best climber’s abilities. It is in centers like these that Connor, who is now part of the U.S. National Junior Climbing Team, has competed in various national and international climbing contests.  

The athletes scale walls reaching up to 60 feet high, using numbered handholds of various size on a vertical surface that changes pitch and angle. The competition is rather straightforward: He who reaches the highest point, wins. Not as easy as it sounds. 

The circuit at the national level of competition is comprised of 16 regions throughout the U.S. with various age categories. Having placed third in Nationals, Connor qualified for the Worlds. He attended his third World competition earlier this year, which was held in Italy, and placed 16th overall out of 80 contestants in the 16-to-17-year- old division.  

Climbing takes stamina and a lot of overall body strength, but Connor eschews doing pull-ups and push-ups to get in shape.  “I don’t do a lot of physical training because I feel that the best way to get better at climbing is to climb,” he says. Cross-country running for Woodside High is just another outlet for someone who obviously has too much energy. 

Artificial walls are one thing; scaling 3,000-foot slabs of vertical granite are another.  

Having already ascended El Capitan multiple times (as well as Half Dome and other celebrated peaks) employing various “aided” techniques, Connor felt he was ready for a new challenge and set his sights on the infamous “Nose” of El Capitan. But in this case, he would attempt to “free climb.”  

A free climber is attached to a safety rope looped though a spring-loaded device called a cam, chock or wedge, which is jammed into crevices or a crack in the rock every 20 feet or so. These will catch the climber should he or she slip and fall. However, all of the climbing is accomplished without any aid from the ropes. 

“Aided climbing” uses ropes to help the climber ascend the rock. “French freeing” utilizes rope to aid through the most difficult parts of the climb, and free climbing is done for the rest. Connor learned the technical ins and outs of big wall climbing making use of aided climbing and French freeing. Free climbing is a big step up.  

The Nose is one of the original technical climbing routes up El Capitan and is a popular one. However, it was once considered too technical to free climb and in 25 years only six have achieved the ascent by free climbing. Connor is one of them. 

“When you’re developing as a climber, every new climb is a big challenge,” says Connor. In the case of tackling the Nose, this is a huge understatement. 

His parents thought Connor’s goal was a reasonable one given his amazing abilities and swift progress. However, they considered it a long-term project, one that would take several years in planning and training. They had confidence he could achieve it.  

“A year or two earlier, we had independently realized Connor would be well suited to eventually be a big wall free climber if he wanted” Anne says. “He has the enthusiasm and incredible stamina to do many difficult climbs per day—he is good at very tenuous “slab” climbing, which is the style prevalent on the Nose.” 

It was a spur of the moment decision to make the attempt in 2018. Professional climbers who learned that a 15-year-old was making such an attempt found the notion rather audacious.  

“As parents, one of the reasons we supported a project this ambitious is that the Nose is a relatively safe route. That is, the protection is good and rockfalls are rare,” Anne says. 

It took Connor and his father three days to complete the ascent. Along the way Connor and Jim would sleep on ledges. “There are only a few ledges so you have to make sure you get to them before nightfall,” says Jim, “and hopefully they are not already occupied.” 

Weight is a big consideration in long climbs like the Nose. Food, water, sleeping gear, ropes and tackle make for quite a load. Especially when one is utilizing arms and legs with every ounce of strength to climb. There’s not a lot of rest to be had in such an endeavor. That means somebody must haul the gear up after each “pitch” — which is the length of one’s rope—typically 150 to 200 feet long.  

So Jim pulled the gear up, pitch by pitch; 31 in all for the Nose. Connor would lead and fix the rope to an anchor at the end of each rope length. Jim then used jumars (a device allowing him to climb the rope instead of directly on the rock) to ascend the line and carry the haul bag.  

In mountain climbing, falls, of course, happen.  

One slip of the foot or lost grip and the climber finds himself free-falling to a thankfully short, albeit abrupt, stop – courtesy of ropes and other safety gear. Falls are heart-pounding and maddening all in the same moment. It means covering the same real estate all over again. 

“When trying something at this level, falls are common at first,” says Connor. “They are part of the learning process. On my successful attempt [of the Nose], I only fell on one pitch; the ‘Changing Corners.’ I got there at the end of my second day and almost got it first try but slipped at the end. It was disappointing but we had food and water for one more day so I would have another chance. We slept on a ledge below that pitch. The next morning, I successfully climbed Changing Corners and then the rest of the route.”  

Once Connor crested the top of El Capitan he was international news. 

“I found online articles in many languages, from all over the world,” Jim proudly wrote in his blog afterward. “It made some foreign writer’s lists of top climbing stories of 2018. This route was first climbed free 25 years previously. Connor was only the sixth person ever to do this. All others were full-time professional climbers at the height of their careers, and spent much longer rehearsing the climb than he did, so his ascent really shifted the paradigm of who might accomplish feats like this.” 

Connor stands five foot three inches and weighs in at 115 pounds. Undoubtedly there are those attending Woodside High who consider him small. But in the climbing world he’s one big dude. 

Photo by Jim Herson 

This story was originally published in the December print edition of Climate Magazine.

 

 

San Mateo County builds for the future 

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What is going on at the San Mateo County Government Center in downtown Redwood City?  

Suddenly, structures like the familiar Traffic and Small Claims Court buildings on Marshall Street which had been part of the county government landscape for decades, are gone. Even the historic Lathrop House is no longer where it used to be. 

In their place, long stretches of blue construction fencing now encircle what some call “the pit” – the result of demolishing buildings that occupied land at the corner of Marshall Street and Middlefield Road. Before that could be done, in May, Lathrop House was moved across the street to a new location next to the San Mateo County History Museum.   

On the corner of Brewster Avenue and Winslow Street next to the County Parking Garage (only recently the site for jury and staff parking), more blue fencing walls off what looks like another “pit.” 

What’s behind this massive rearranging of the governmental landscape? 

The short answer is a new County Office Building, known internally as COB3, will go up on the Marshall and Middlefield site. It is to be completed by mid-2022. A new, larger County Parking Structure that will be located next to the current county garage, is slated for completion by early 2021. 

In 2018, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year Capital Improvement Plan that would use a combination of Measure K funds, bond revenues, and general fund monies to embark on the first capital upgrade project at the County Government Center Campus in 25 years.  With this money, three major structures were to be built at the County Center: a Regional Operations Center, a County Office Building, and a new parking garage. 

The first of these projects – the Operations Center – has been completed and is anticipated to open for business by next month. 

Referred to internally by the shorthand name “the ROC,” it was built first partly because the site for its construction was inside the current footprint of Government Center Campus so disruption of public access to county government offices during construction was minimized. Located at 501 Winslow St., directly across from the existing parking garage, the ROC will serve as a hub for public safety responders during major catastrophic events.  

Designed to operate for up to seven days without PG&E-provided power or city-provided water, the facility houses the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services; Public Safety Communications, which operates 9-1-1 dispatch and is currently operating out of the basement of the Hall of Justice; and a secure data center. 

“The ROC is constructed to Category F criteria, the most stringent seismic design category reserved for essential buildings such as hospitals, meaning it can withstand an 8.0 earthquake without sustaining serious structural or functional damage,” said Adam Ely, Project Development Director for San Mateo County. 

Supervisor Carole Groom, president of the Board of Supervisors, recently acknowledged the benefits the ROC will bring to the community and the staff who perform high-stress jobs during emergencies like the recent power outages experienced by thousands of county residents. 

“We will all be safer because of this modern facility and the fact that we now have a unified command center,” said Groom. “Among the highlights of this innovative building is a large, convertible, multi-use space that will be used for county trainings when the Operations Center is not on alert. Also, we can now provide a lighter, more relaxed, more supportive working environment for those folks who answer our calls for help, day or night.”  

The County Parking Structure is next up for completion. Already under construction, the garage will be located on the site of the former parking lot adjacent to the current garage, at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Middlefield Road. When completed, the seven-level garage will address the current parking shortfall in the area by providing 1,022 additional parking spaces for county employees, potential jury members, and visitors to the government center. With the 982 spaces in the existing parking structure, that will bring the total number of parking spaces available to serve the County Government Campus to more than 2,000. 

In addition to providing substantial relief from the current construction-impacted parking around the County Center, the new parking garage will feature 62 electric vehicle charging stalls, an express ramp for quick access to upper floors, and vehicle occupancy signs to tell drivers how many spaces are available at any given time. 

As for the third and largest capital project, the County Office Building, construction site work began earlier this year with demolition of the former Traffic Court and Small Claims Court buildings and movement of the Lathrop House to its new site.  Although work on the building itself won’t begin until final bids are received, Ely anticipates that the $152 million structure will be completed by the middle of 2022. 

The five-story structure was designed by the famed Studio Gang architectural firm to allow in natural light and air while providing for landscaped outdoor space with three enclosed pavilions. There will be four levels of office, common and event space in the County Office Building that are elevated above the ground-level areas. 

Consistent with the County Municipal Green Building Policy, COB3 will target a rating of LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, using 21st century technology to operate at Zero Net Energy. With a LEED Gold certification, the new County Office Building will have a high rating in key sustainability criteria, such as water and energy consumption, materials used in construction, and indoor environmental quality. 

The new building will house 600 county staffers, including those from the Office of the County Counsel, the County Manager’s Office and the Board of Supervisors, many of whom will be moving from spaces the county currently leases, such as those in the Hall of Justice and Records. As a result, county courts will be able to expand their use of the Eisenhower-era structure at 400 County Center and begin a long-planned, much needed remodel and upgrade of that facility.  

Employees in the county’s Human Services Agency, who now work in leased office space on Davis Drive in Belmont, are also among those who are expected to be moving into COB3. 

Altogether, cost for the three new structures is projected to be nearly approximately $265 million. County Supervisor Don Horsley said the expenditure is necessary because of current needs as well as to be better positioned for the future necessity of upgrading other county-owned facilities in Redwood City and beyond. 

“With all the growth taking place in in the county, and particularly in downtown Redwood City, government facilities needed to serve the citizenry also had to expand,” Horsley said. “We all know about the parking crunch at the County Center, something that’s only going to get worse when employees currently housed at the County Medical Center (in San Mateo) have to relocate during that facility’s upgrade. 

So the new parking structure should ease that burden and the new County Office Building will provide more working space for these and other county employees as well as a beautiful new public space on the ground floor for community gatherings and walk-up access to the Board of Supervisors chambers, that will hopefully encourage more public participation in county government.” 

Board President Groom acknowledges that the construction projects around the County Center cause significant disruption and parking challenges. She hopes the public will appreciate both the need for, and the benefits of, the capital upgrades taking place. 

“Construction of the Regional Operations Center and the new County Office Building is a once-in-a-generation, if not more, opportunity to create a more sustainable, efficient and enjoyable environment for the public we serve and the employees who work here,” said Groom. “Bringing more departments together at a modernized County Center also lets us reduce lease costs for space outside of this campus. As a county, our goal is always to improve the quality of life for our community and to be strong fiscal stewards. These projects allow us to do both.” 

 This story was originally published in the December print edition of Climate Magazine. 

Correction: The story has been updated to reflect the correct approximate amount of cost for the three new San Mateo Government Center structures in downtown Redwood City

An opportunity to showcase the work of a pioneer artist 

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Momentum is building for construction of a new Veterans Memorial Building and Senior Center in Redwood City, which will provide a number of amenities including a new theater, catering kitchen, gardening space and a technology hub. Among the less obvious benefits will be an opportunity to bring some of the work of the founding father of Redwood City’s arts community out where people can see and appreciate it. That’s Ralph Ledesma (1910-1993), a watercolorist who for many years taught this difficult art form to students enrolled in Sequoia Adult School classes, out of which the Sequoia Art Group was formed. Fifty-seven years later, says program chair Catherine Delfs, it’s still around with about 100 members. 

In addition to helping train many would-be artists, Ledesma was a prolific painter whose pictures of local scenes such as the old Frank Tannery are prized possessions of fortunate local collectors. Redwood City owns more than three dozen Ledesmas, many of which hang on the walls in a narrow corridor of the old 49er Building at Red Morton Park, which will be torn down for the Veterans center project. “They’re going with us for sure,” says Bruce Utecht, Community Services Manager. “We are not going to lose them.”   

The city managed to commander this sizeable collection thanks to current Senior Affairs Committee member Barbara Britschgi, who happened to see a bunch at an estate sale in Woodside more than a decade ago. She and a friend sprang into action to get them secured so the city could purchase them.  “I’m hoping they will stay together because there’s enough to be like a small gallery,” she says. Department Director Chris Beth assures that the paintings will be “more permanently displayed,” likely in the main senior lounge.   

Ledesma was a house painter by trade and a prize-winning artist by avocation, as fellow artist Marian Goodman wrote in a 1960 story in the Redwood City Tribune. He had always liked to draw and joined the Palo Alto Art Club. He didn’t think he was “good enough” but was encouraged to paint. During World War II, in his full field pack, Ledesma carried a barracks bag, a rifle and a canvas bag made to fit his paintings, plus a special bag for his paints. Once he returned, he got married and “drifted” into house-painting. Delfs, who took one class from Ledesma, recalls that he would only sell his paintings one day a year, hung from clothespins at a September show at Wellesley Crescent Park. “He was the only like art advocate in our city before art was even thought of as being important,” she says. And deserving some recognition. 

Despite being hit with new fees for public safety and other services for special events, Redwood City’s outdoor living nativity known as Bethlemen AD will go on as usual this year.  “It has been a challenge for us to raise the extra $15,000,” says Creative Director Paula Dresden, “but somehow we are going to make it.” The city helped to bring down the cost that was initially projected, which has helped, but it’s a new expense on top of Bethlehem AD’s $45,000 budget. Donations are still welcome and can be made online through www.bethlehemad.com.  

About 25,000 people are expected to visit during the event, which will be held Dec. 21, 22 and 23 across from Rise City Church on Middlefield Road. Some 300 volunteers, from costumed wise men to Roman soldiers, try to recreate the atmosphere of the Jewish village at the time of Christ’s birth. A baby donkey, just born Nov. 14, will be among the stable animals.  No admission is charged, but there are always volunteers with donation baskets, an especially important last-stop exiting Bethlehem AD.  

 This story was originally published in the December print edition of Climate Magazine.

Longtime San Carlos donut shop closing. In heartfelt note, owner’s son reveals why

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After several decades in San Carlos, Chuck’s Coffee & Donuts is closing for good today.

The owner’s son, Benjamin Trin, posted a heartfelt note to Facebook about the closure of the shop at 495 Old County Road, saying the business that has sustained his small family could not keep up with skyrocketing rents.

Chuck’s Donuts initially began to struggle, according to Trin, when he was in high school and rents began rising and people were becoming more health conscious.

“We just started losing people,” he said.

The business “somehow sustained” but ultimately has been unable to keep pace with the rising cost to operate the business, Trin said.

“Our landlord, despite how many chances she has given us, we just can’t keep up…my childhood, my moms dream, ends here,” he said.

The loss of the shop will be difficult for the family, Trin said. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to help the small family’s transition. Trin says his family were survivors and refugees from war-torn Cambodia who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. His mother received the San Carlos shop from his grandfather in the early 1980s and it was his family’s main source of income. Until today, she’s run the shop with help from Trin and his sister. Trin said their father left the family when he was 3.

Photo credit: Ben Trin, Facebook

Trin fondly remembers his mother bringing donuts to his classrooms when he was a kid, how “all the kids would befriend me so I wouldn’t feel alone.” He recalls hanging around the shop with his friends.  In sharing a post about the closure, a law enforcement officer said Chuck’s Donuts had been a regular for San Carlos police officers.

“We’ve been the donut shop for those early bird workers, kids baseball games, church events, birthdays, and so much more,” Trin said in a separate post on Reddit.

Trim thanked loyal customer and the city of San Carlos “for being our home and welcoming us with open arms.”

A joy-drenched Hometown Holidays

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The weather outside may have, at times, been frightful. But Hometown Holidays in downtown Redwood City was oh so delightful.

Despite the rain, the downtown’s streets were filled with umbrella-toting, poncho-wearing revelers for the annual festival and parade on Saturday, which is presented by the Redwood City Downtown Business Group.

The free event included, per usual, daylong activities for the whole family, with 15 live entertainment acts throughout the day at Courthouse Square, a carnival, vendors and photos with Santa. The day culminated with the parade, followed by the Courthouse Square tree lighting and a visit by the Caltrain Holiday Train at Sequoia Station.

Check out photos from Saturday. Learn more about Hometown Holidays here.

 

 

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